June 3, 2023


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Rwanda: Delay of official guidelines for the implementation of the Marrakesh Treaty continues to pose challenges to Persons with visual impairments

Persons with visual impairments in Rwanda have called on the government to set guidelines for the implementation of the Marrakesh Treaty in order to make it easier for blind, visually impaired and print disabled people to access works protected by copyright.

The WIPO-administered Marrakesh Treaty makes the production and international transfer of specially-adapted books for people with blindness or visual impairments easier. It does this by establishing a set of limitations and exceptions to traditional copyright law.

According to the Rwanda Union of the Blind, “it is nearly two years sin Rwanda agreed to be one of the parties to the Marrakesh Treaty,” things that people with visual impairments say are good yet so far, no guidelines have been put in place to facilitate the implementation of this Treaty

Rwanda has acceded to the treaty since September 2020. In October last year Rwanda submitted to the United Nations Department of Intellectual Property Protection, [WIPO], a document confirming adherence to this agreement.

The fact that the agreement has not been implemented properly continues to affect the visually impaired, especially those in schools.

The Executive Director of the Rwanda Blind Union (RUB), Dr Donatille Kanimba, explained that the lack of the implementation guidelines at the national level continues to create challenges adding that even during the government budget allocation, the treaty’s implementation is likely to be ignored since there is no clear policy for Marrakesh Treaty implementation.

The Executive Director of the Rwanda Union of the Blind (RUB), Dr Donatille Kanimba

“The fact that there are no clear guidelines has the potential to disrupt the Marrakesh agreement, and it will also be detrimental to those with intellectual or written properties.”

This guideline must be provided by the State. Dr Kanimba says there is a concern that those who are ready to support the implementation of the treaty may not do so because of the lack of the official authority in the implementation of the treaty.

“We want this guideline to be clear so that we too can find a better way to monitor it. People with disabilities need to easily have access to the benefits of Marrakesh treaty as explained in the treaty,” Dr. Kanimba said

The Rwanda Ministry of Trade and Industry explained that as of January 25, 2022, Rwanda is considered to be one of the parties to the agreement.

According to information received by the media, the Ministry added that a meeting was held with the Council of Persons with Disability and the Rwanda Blind Union (RUB) to inform them of Rwanda’s accession to the agreement, to communicate its benefits and way forwards.

“The other thing that has been done is to merge the terms of the agreement with the Intellectual Property Law, which is now in the parliament,” the Ministry said in a note to the media.

The Ministry explained that the following step will be to explain the treaty content to the beneficiaries who are the blind, the organizations that help them, the public authorities and the owners of the Intellectual properties covered by the agreement.

There is also a need to work with the Ministry of local government and other relevant stakeholders to establish a comprehensive mechanism for the implementation of this agreement.

Normally the Marrakesh Treaty also allows for the importation and exportation of books and other works in accessible formats without asking for permission from the owners, authors or publishers.

Article 4 of the Marrakesh Treaty requires countries which ratify the Treaty to enact a domestic copyright exception. This will allow Authorised Entities to make accessible copies of Works without having to ask permission from the owners, authors or publishers. It also goes ahead to allow Authorised Entities to supply those copies to beneficiary persons by any means, including by noncommercial lending or by electronic communication including E-mails.

It should be noted that this Article ensures that the Authorised Entities doing the transcription does not introduce changes other than those needed to make the work accessible to the beneficiary person and that such accessible format copies are supplied exclusively to be used by beneficiary persons

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